Unlocking the Genetic Secrets to Longevity

4 minute(s) read
Unlocking the Genetic Secrets to Longevity


Did you know why the Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie decided to have her breasts removed in 2013?  Jolie’s decision to remove both of her breasts, and later her ovaries, has drawn worldwide attention, especially for women, to the term “Genetic Testing”. Through sample of her cheek cells, Jolie found that she had a mutation in a gene that greatly increased the risk of breast and ovarian cancers. After the surgery, her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers has been reduced.

Nowadays the technology of genetic testing is much more advanced. We can now simply collect a sample of cells from the inside of the cheek to do the test. This genetic testing can provide us with more insights about our body and raise awareness of any potential health risks or genetic disorders we may have. Like a life compass, it could guide us in the right direction to achieve longer life.

Dr. Tanupol Virunhagarun, Director of the Royal Life Anti-Aging Center, Bangkok Hospital, shares some interesting facts about this advanced technology.

Q: Are there currently any medical technology developments or procedures that could prevent us from the health problems or diseases?

Dr. Tanupol Virunhagarun: Genetic testing is highly accurate and can lead us to a very in-depth diagnosis. We can use a genetic mapping method to collect the data of the patterns of the chromosomes or DNA to identify the risks of developing or passing on a genetic disease. Whether you are 2 or 100 years old, when you take the test your genetic blueprint will be the same. Of course, it would be more beneficial to have the test sooner than later so you have more chance to make any necessary decisions to prevent yourself from getting life-threatening genetic diseases such as lifestyle changes or seeking expert in further advice from preventive and Anti-Aging medicine Take Angelina Jolie for example, her decision to remove her breasts has significantly reduced her chance of developing breast cancer. 

If you are diagnosed with lung cancer, then what you should do is to stop smoking. If the test results say you have a genetic risk of Osteoarthritis a degenerative joint disease, then swimming is a better exercise option than running.  If you have a tendency of developing coronary heart disease, changing your eating habits from consuming oysters, squid or mango and sticky rice to low cholesterol food will definitely help prevent yourself from the heart condition.


Q: Is it possible that the test will provide inaccurate results?

Dr. Tanupol Virunhagarun: It is possible, but not very much because we are testing the 
genes in which we inherit from our parents. However, our lifestyle could be the 
factors that create the health risks. For example, you may not have any cancer genes but if you smoke two packs of cigarettes a day, you are increasing the chance of developing lung cancer. Although you did not inherit any heart conditions but you have a hectic work schedule and sleep deprivation, then you could risk having a heart attack given you continue to have this pattern. Or without knowing that you have genetic risk of breast cancer and you are taking hormones to reduce the mood swings and hot flashes, then you may be at risk of breast cancer. In some countries, if you have a premature menopause, you will be asked to have a genetic test to check whether or not your body has a tendency to develop breast cancer before a doctor can prescribe you hormone supplements. Because of this information, you can seek medical advice and treatment as well as make better-informed decisions about your lifestyle to prevent yourself from getting cancer.


Q: Is it complicated to have genetic testing?

Dr. Tanupol Virunhagarun: Very simple and does not involve any blood tests. A sample of cells from the inside of the cheek will be collected into a tube using a cotton bud and sent to an accredited laboratory in the United States. You will get the results within one month.


Q: How do we choose where to get the genetic testing?

Dr. Tanupol Virunhagarun: The accuracy of the genetic test results depends on the number of the tests being collected. Genetic testing has become more and more popular in the United States, so the majority of the data and statistics collected for different types of diseases and conditions are being done there. You can say that the United States has the highest accuracy rates.


Q: What is your prediction about the future of medical technology and development?

Dr. Tanupol Virunhagarun: We have been taking medication, trying to fix the symptoms instead of the root cause, for hundreds of years. And all of these medications have their own side effects. With this genetic testing, we can identify the faulty genes that are the actual root causes of the illness. So maybe one day there would be a new kind of medicine or technology that could treat those faulty genes directly and turn them into normal healthy genes again.


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